Vanessa Le is a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Recipient currently pursuing a Master’s Degree at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies. She graduated magna cum laude in March 2021 with a major in Education Sciences, minor in Korean Literature and Culture, and specialization in English Language Learning. During her time at UCI, she was involved with the Antleader Mentorship Program (AMP), Badminton Club’s competitive sport team, the International Center’s English Conversation Program, Dr. Young-Suk Kim’s Language, Literacy & Learning Lab under the School of Education, and served as ASUCI’s International Student Advocacy Officer. Vanessa hopes to one day work in higher education to inspire students through the intersections of international education and Korean culture and language.
1) If we ask one of your friends to describe you, what would they say?
Out of curiosity, I went ahead and asked my friends this question directly. In summary, I am described as a straightforward, caring, honest and trustworthy friend. I am innocent at heart and very passionate and vibrant about the things I enjoy. I am a blank canvas ready and willing to learn from what life throws at me. However, I can also tend to be cynical and pessimistic, yet driven when it comes to improving myself and my future.
2) What life events or personal mentorships, if any, directed you to the field of study you have chosen for your future endeavors?
I chose to pursue a major in Education Sciences because school had always been an ambivalent concept for me as I matured into an adult. By analyzing and working in the field of education, I aim to reconstruct that ambivalence into support and empathy for all students who may be struggling in the same way I had. I was also fortunate to gain immense inspiration related to student empowerment from the mentors of AMP ’17-’18. On a different note, my appreciation for the Korean language as not only a challenging skill, but also as a form of solace, has taken me farther than I have ever expected. I independently picked up reading the language one summer out of boredom, and fast forward 10 years later, here I am studying as a graduate student at Yonsei University. Quite frankly, the thought of applying for a Fulbright grant never once crossed my mind until one of my professors from when I spent my second year abroad in Korea, Yoo Jun, encouraged me to just go for it. I am eternally grateful for his support in my endeavors and having more confidence in me than my own self at times. By combining my passions for the Korean language, educational inequity, and international relations, I hope to one day improve existing educational systems by drawing on my transnational and multicultural insights.
3) Did you ever seek information and advice from the SOP advising team? If so, what type of advice were you seeking and what was your experience with them?
Yes, of course! I worked with SOP throughout my entire Fulbright grant application process. My primary advisor, Brendan Park, provided valuable support not just in terms of guiding the compilation of my materials, but also in helping me transform my ideas in a formative way that best represented “me”. Working with SOP certainly aided in structuralizing my workload and progress toward completing the application because I met consistently with Brendan and my writing specialist, Lindsey Allgood, every week for several months. Outside of the technicalities of my application, I enjoyed having heart-to-heart conversations with both of them about how my experiences have shaped my future aspirations. Interestingly, rather than focusing on how I can present myself as the most competitive applicant possible, simply opening up about my vulnerability as an adult simply exploring life helped make the writing process smoother and more natural. It is truly thanks to the SOP team, my professors, and other supportive affiliates that I was honored in receiving the Fulbright Korean Studies Master’s Degree grant.
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